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Wednesday, December 13, 2000

Japanese tourism
to swell during

JTB expects 83,000 tourists to
travel to Hawaii over a 12-day
period that begins on Dec. 23

By Russ Lynch

Japanese tourists, many of whom stayed away from the islands last New Year's when millennium celebrations jammed hotels and sent prices sky high, will flock back this holiday season, according to a survey by Japan Travel Bureau Inc.

JTB JTB, Japan's biggest travel agency, said 83,000 Japanese are expected to travel to Hawaii in the 12-day period that starts with a national holiday Dec. 23 and runs through the Jan. 3 end of the New Year's season.

That is a 53.7 percent increase over the 54,000 who came to Hawaii at that time last year, when worries about the impact of the shift to the year 2000, as well as expectations that Hawaii would be too busy, kept many Japanese at home or journeying only to nearby destinations such as Hong Kong and South Korea.

Again this year, the U.S. mainland is attracting more Japanese tourists than Hawaii, with 86,000 expected to travel there, a 34.4 percent over 64,000 for the 1999-2000 holidays.

Guam and Saipan are also seeing a big jump this year, to 58,000 Japanese visitors, up 70.6 percent from 34,000 in last year's holidays. The Pacific Islands are popular because they are closer to Japan and there are many short-term budget tour packages available.

JTB, which surveyed 200 of its offices throughout Japan to see what bookings they were taking, said Japanese overseas travel in general will be way up for this year's year-end and New Year's season.

JTB expects 688,000 Japanese to travel overseas in the season, up 49.2 percent to set a record.

Aside from the absence of Y2K worries, businesses are doing better this year, allowing them to pay high winter bonuses to their employees, JTB said.

There is also likely to be a rise in overseas travel further into January, JTB said, because of the "Happy Monday" legislation that went into effect last year. That gives Japanese workers a holiday Jan. 8, creating a new long weekend.

Most departures for overseas points traditionally start before the end of the year, but the added long weekend is likely to lead many people to start vacations after New Year, JTB said.

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